Syria - Mesopotamia   :|:   Document

Phoenician ship on a panel of Nimrud

ref. : en.713.2013 | 10 April 2013 | by Francis Leveque
sculpture | Second half of VIIIe century BC
Nimrud (Kalhu), Mésopotamie ( Irak )
Twitter Twitter

Gypsum wall panel relief excavated in the palace of Tiglath-Pileser III (730BC). Acquisition date : 1908.

Height: 46 centimetres
Width: 46 centimetres

The fragment shows part of a Phoenician(?) ship surrounded by sea creatures. Two bearded men holding oars form the crew of the ship, which is moving to the right. Its mast amidships is braced by two sheets, bow and stern are decorated with animals’ heads; that at the prow looks like a duck’s head, that on the stern, like the head of a lion, but seems to be shapeless. Above the ship are four creatures, a fish, a sea-snake or eel, a large bird with snake-like tail, and a frog or turtle.

At the left edge of the fragment is a turret, with battlements and a big tree, perhaps a cypress, upon it.

This slab is part of a larger scene shown in the not quite accurate drawing given in Layard, ’Nineveh and its remains’, vol. ii, p. 395, and described ibid., p. 382. It belongs (as the drawing shows) to a city apparently built on an island, which perhaps represents Tyre or Arvad. Before it is a second vessel, without a mast, towed by three men holding long oars.

The scene has close parallels in the relief of Sargon II at Khorsabad; cf. Botta, ’Monument de Ninive’, vol. i, pls. 33-4.
It is of interest to compare this scene with that of the time of Sargon in which similar boats, with prows in the form of a horse’s head and a mast for hoisting sail, are represented transporting timber down the Euphrates, see Botta, ’Monument de Ninive’, tome i, planches 32-4. It would seem that the original Slab found at Nimrud was left there. The present fragment was purchased in 1908.


Bibliography :

  • E. Unger, Die Reliefs Tiglatpilesars III aus Nimrud, Publikationen der Kaiserlich Osmanischen Museen, vol. V, Kaiserlich Osmanischen Museen, Constantinople , n° 15
  • M.P.E Botta, Monument de Ninive, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris , 1849, pl. 32-4
  • A.H. Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, John Murray, London , 1849, vol. 2, p.382-395
  • S. Smith, Assyrian Sculptures in the British Museum from Shalmaneser III to Sennacherib, British Museum Press, London , 1938, pl. 24
  • R.D. Barnett; M. Falkner, The Sculptures of Ashur-nasir-apli II (883-859 B.C), Tiglath-pilesar (745-727 B.C), Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C) from the Central and South-West Palaces at Nimrud, British Museum Press, London , 1962, pl. 17
  • L. Basch, Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique (MIMA), Institut hellénique pour la préservation de la tradition nautique, Athènes , 1987, p.309-310, n° 652